Hume, Fergus

Tagged: Author

(1859-1932) UK lawyer and author raised in New Zealand from the age of three until 1885, then in Australia for three years, finally back in the UK from 1888, after The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886) made his name, though not his fortune, as he had sold all rights for fifty pounds before its success; along with some later books with fantastic elements, the novel is examined in Blockbuster!: Fergus Hume and the Mystery of a Hansom Cab (2015) by Lucy Sussex. Hansom Cab was followed by about 140 further books, many of them detective and spy thrillers, a number of them fantasy and a few sf: The Year of Miracle: A Tale of the Year One Thousand Nine Hundred (1891) is a Disaster novel in which the UK is depopulated by a plague spread by a fanatical socialist, and The Island of Fantasy (1892 3vols) is a Utopia, based on the culture of ancient Greece and set on a Mediterranean Island. Hume also wrote several Lost Race novels: in The Harlequin Opal: A Romance (1893 3vols), which is set in an imaginary Latin American country, a hidden Aztec elite fails to guard the prophecy-generating opal from the invading whites, whose vying for the treasure results in the destruction – as usual – of the original civilization; The Nameless City: A Rommany Romance (1893) as by Stephen Grail, features a secret Gypsy land; The Expedition of Captain Flick (1896) is set in the Indian Ocean, where ancient Greeks called the Awazil (not apparently the same Greeks that figure in The Island of Fantasy) have survived on a secret Island; The Mother of Emeralds (1901) is set in Peru, where Incans have developed an underground civilization based on electricity; and the herb from Easter Island instanced in the title of The Sacred Herb (1908) induces paranormal trances in its users when inhaled through an ancient herb burner from Lemuria, allowing them to commit out-of-body murders.

Not all the titles listed below may contain fantastic elements, though each of them has been listed somewhere at some point; Hume's personal involvement in Theosophy seems not to have affected his fiction to any great extent, though A Son of Perdition: An Occult Romance (1912) is a clear exception. Most of his production was hackwork, some of it being very hard to track down – that he had dozens of publishers contributes to the current obscurity of much of his work – and probably unmemorable. But it is clear that on those occasions when he took time to allow his intelligence to work, as in The Island of Fantasy and The Expedition of Captain Flick and some other titles, he rewards investigation. [JC]

Fergusson Wright Hume

born Powick, Worcestershire: 8 July 1859

died Thundersley, Essex: 12 July 1932

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